Oftentimes in genre, it's the lives and stories around villains that are far more interesting in comparison to the hero's journey. Strapped with deep pockets and unlimited bank accounts, some of these megalomaniacs know how to live it up! Think of Ex Machina's Nathan Bateman's modern compound secluded in serene nature, or the oceanic citadel of Atlantis in The Spy Who Loved Me, and, yes, the Death Star in a galaxy far, far away. The design that goes around building an evil adversary is essential in creating a film with a lasting impression.
On November 5, Tra Publishing is releasing a comprehensive book titled Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains, which explores the architecture of villain lairs from 15 different films, such as Superman, Lethal Weapon, The Incredibles, Ex Machina, 007: The James Bond franchise, and Star Wars, to name just a few. Check out this trailer by Carlos Fueyo, who also did the illustrations for the book:
SYFY WIRE has the exclusive preview of the Ex Machina and Blade Runner 2049 sections of the book, with unpublished commentary from Lair's author and Miami-based architect Chad Oppenheim. And in the gallery are more exclusive previews of the sections for the following 007 films: You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, The Man with the Golden Gun, and Diamonds Are Forever.
“Niander Wallace wants to be God, which is similar to Nathan Bateman," Oppenheim said in comparing the beard-scratching villains of Ex Machina and Blade Runner 2049. "It’s this God complex, and the architecture in both supports that vibe, even though it’s very different. Ex Machina is discreet. It’s below the surface."
"Blade Runner 2049 is a different mode of villainhood. It’s in a tall building, a huge building, it’s in Los Angeles, so it’s in a metropolitan area and it dominates the area, whereas the lair in Ex Machina is remote and almost hidden. And the relationship of each lair to nature is completely opposite, yet the themes are pretty similar. They are both dealing with AI, and with these questions of what makes us human, and with the awesome power of technology and potential for corruption inherent in that power."
The book gives not only a visual breakdown of each lair through photos and blueprint illustrations, but also the philosophy, the culture of architecture and design as they relate to the stories built into each villain. It's loaded with essays, film analyses, and interviews with production designers, directors, and other industry professionals, such as Ralph Eggleston, Mark Digby, Richard Donner, and Gregg Henry, and an oral history with the late architect John Lautner.
Below is a brief excerpt from the book as Oppenheim analyzes Nathan's Alaskan compound in Ex Machina:
This is not about being the wealthiest person and having the biggest house, which is a value you also see today in Silicon Valley. Nathan’s house is nestled in nature. It seems like it’s Walden, it’s Thoreau. It seems innocuous. You can barely see the structure through the trees, and it incorporates natural elements around it and even within it. But then you go underneath, you descend into his lair, you’re underground, and it has long, antiseptic hallways, it’s claustrophobic, and you never see the architecture of that subterranean level.
This is a vertical dichotomy, which we see in many other villains’ lairs: good upstairs, bad downstairs. We have the phenomenology of the lair, of going downstairs into this other space that has no reference or relationship to what is above.
The underground section is sectional, and that condition in the house is echoed in Nathan’s life and in the technology of his company, BlueBook, which is like a combination of Google and Facebook. And it relates to our contemporary digital culture, which has this seemingly innocuous top layer, but below that it’s insidious: We’re being studied and watched, and there is all this experimentation going on.
And then we have the relationship with nature. Nathan has so much money that he can do anything, and he buys a portion of Alaska. With his house, he seems to be saying, “Look at me, gently touching nature.” But of course, he’s not doing that at all. He’s manipulating nature.
In this exclusive unpublished breakdown of the Blade Runner 2049 section, Oppenheim explains to SYFY WIRE where some of the inspiration was drawn from for Niander's home.
"I find the spaces so incredibly dramatic and beautiful. They are very elemental, very powerful, and monumental. Some of the inspirations and references are quite interesting. It feels like there is inspiration from James Turrell, the artist. There are certainly references to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. And to ancient Egypt—to temples, to pyramids. To me it’s very inspiring in its drama and its simplicity. There is stone, water, light. The materials are timeless. It’s basically all about light, even though there’s not a lot of it. It’s about how light is used.
Niander Wallace is blind, so it is interesting that he has this huge, imposing space. The space is hyper-experiential to all the senses. Everything here is, like, playing to the senses beyond just the sight. It has a silence to it, it has a power in its silence, it has a power with the water and the reflections and the sounds and how you can hear it, see it, smell it. It’s beyond the visual. Space is not purely visual."
So whether you're looking for a fascinating gift for that highbrow nerd in your life or just need to know the intricacies of Lex Luthor's Grand Central Terminal hideout in Superman IV, Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains promises to deepen your knowledge of genre movies and help you transition to far more intelligent conversations inspired by popular culture. Check out our full 9-page preview of the book with some extra pictures of the front and back covers below. Lair is a 296-page hardcover with Smyth-sewn binding and silver foil stamping, measuring 9.2" x 13", with 200+ photographs, architectural illustrations, and retails for $75.00.